Once again the Sony Open in Hawaii is the first full field event on the PGA Tour following the winter break. Before Christmas there were a number of smaller, unsanctioned events with a low key feel and last week 32 players took part in the Hyundai Tournament of Champions, but over 140 players will tee off in Honolulu on Thursday.
Many of those will be playing in their first tournament of 2016 but that is not generally a good sign when it comes to picking a winner of the Sony Open. 11 of the last 16 winners of this tournament played the previous week at the Tournament of Champions, including Jimmy Walker whose win here last year was his second victory in consecutive years. Walker will be aiming to replicate Steve Stricker, the last man to win an event three times on the bounce, but his poor form makes it tough to back the Texas native even though he clearly loves this place.
The par 70 course is one of the easiest on the PGA Tour with the stroke average coming out just a touch over 69 shots last season. Part of the ease of this course comes because of its relatively short distance of 7,044 yards, but there is also a lack of water hazards (water is in play on only three holes) and the weather forecast is for a mild, pleasant temperature with the wind only picking up on Friday. Without the wind the only real defence that the course has is the rough but the tournament organisers cannot seem to make up their mind whether to make it long and penal or to keep it a relatively easy course.
The other issue that the players will face this week is having to hit the small greens. Previous tournaments point to a high greens in regulation ranking being the key stat when it comes to picking a winner for the Sony Open and in that regard it is tough to ignore the challenge of Russell Knox at 45/1 with Bet365. The 30-year-old became the first Scot to win a WGC event at the HSBC Champions in August and since then he has ranked in the top 10 for greens hit in regulation six times. If he can take his chances he will surely at least go close again.
Brandt Snedeker is another player with a solid iron game who must be fancied this week. The popular American comes off the back of a very good showing at the Tournament of Champions where he finished tied for third and he topped the GIR stats for that event. Snedeker is one of the very best putters in the world so he will take his chances and looks a good bet at 28/1 with Bet365.
Finally, Peter Malnati could be worth an each-way shot at 90/1 with Coral. He won his first PGA Tour event at the Sanderson Farms Championship in November and placed sixth in top quality company last week. He’s playing the best golf of his life and could well make those odds of 90/1 look far too generous.